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Northern Ireland consumers should exercise caution when shopping online

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Trading Standards Service (TSS) has issued a reminder to consumers to take extra care when shopping online.

Each month Consumerline receives hundreds of telephone calls, emails and posts from consumers, many of whom have had a bad experience shopping online.

The complaints cover a multitude of problems concerning goods and services. They can vary from slow or non delivery of goods right through to scams where people lose hundreds or thousands of pounds.

Phone recyclers, phone unlockers, clothing retailers, face cream, baby care items, ticket resellers, fake electrical retailers and loan companies are but a few products or services featured in recent complaints.

While the majority of online sites are safe for shopping, people still need to take care, as it is not always easy to know who you are dealing with. For example, just because a web address ends in “.co.uk” there is no guarantee that the business is based in the United Kingdom.

Before buying online, consumers are advised to use the internet to research if there are any problems with the business they propose dealing with. Searching online using the business’s name followed by the word “scam” can be particularly helpful as can searching online reviews and forums.

However, even customer reviews can be fake, particularly those that are over complimentary and at odds to the many other reviews posted so consider the number, frequency, and nature of reviews before deciding whether to deal with a business

If you do decide to proceed with a purchase, try and pay by debit or credit cards which offer a degree of protection. Avoid bank transfers which are a preferred method by scammers. If a business tells you that you have to make a transfer as their card facilities are down, then try another company.

Bill Malloy, TSS, said: “It is horrendous seeing the daily loss by consumers across Northern Ireland. Sadly, many of them could have been avoided as calls received by Consumerline often reflect experiences already posted online by previous customers.

“Do not find out the hard way – always do some research before placing an order or doing business and remember – if it looks too good to be true, then it probably is.”

Consumers who feel that they have been a victim should contact Consumerline on: 0300 123 6262 or alternatively log onto the Consumerline website at: http://nidirect.gov.uk

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